The Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks Next Week, but You May Want to Get Out Now
The Perseids are usually one of the most exciting meteor showers of the year. That won't be the case this year.
In most years, the Perseid meteor shower is one of the best stargazing events you can catch, providing dozens of meteors per hour at its peak. Let's just rip the bandaid off. That will not be the case this year.
The Perseids will hit their peak on August 12 and 13. That date, however, lands next to a full moon. Full moons are kryptonite to meteor showers because the moonlight obscures many of the meteors you might otherwise see. But it's even a slight bit worse than just a full moon. August's full moon is the last of a few consecutive supermoons, which means the moon will be slightly brighter than the average full moon. It will not be a stellar year for the Perseids.
At its most vibrant, the meteor shower is capable of producing more than 100 meteors per hour at its peak. Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office tells Space.com that you should expect a more tepid 10-20 meteors per hour this year.
If you're hoping to see some of the bright Perseids with their persistent trains nonetheless, you should consider stargazing in advance of the peak this month.
How to see the Perseid meteor shower
The Perseids streak across the sky for weeks on both sides of the peak every year, but in smaller numbers than you'd see at the peak under ideal conditions. By the days leading to its conclusion on September 1, you won't see many at all.
Still, the days leading up to the August 12 peak may provide better viewing under clear dark skies. Astronomer Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project told Newsweek that the best time to get out might be around August 9, when you could see as many as 30 meteors per hour. Though, it's tough to predict what you'll see on any given night.
Jamie Carter at Forbes suggests that you might even have better luck picking a date later in the month like August 21-23, instead of trying to go out on the night of the peak.
Whenever you are going in search of shooting stars, be sure to get far from the light pollution of cities. The darker the skies are overhead, the more likely you are to see meteors. Like many other meteor showers, the Perseids are also best seen after midnight.
Once you arrive at your stargazing hub, it can help to orient yourself to the shower's radiant. The Perseids, created by debris from comet Swift-Tuttle, appear to radiate from in the constellation Perseus. Meteors will appear to move away from the radiant, streaking across any part of the sky. So, you don't want to position yourself so you're staring right at it, but a bit away from there.
Whenever you head to the countryside to find meteors, you can find meteors if you make a plan, but don't expect a show-stopper this time around.